SuperSonics 109, Nuggets 98
SEATTLE (AP)—George Karl isn’t concerned that the Denver Nuggets haven’t looked like a successful playoff team in their final four regular-season games.
“Not at all,” Karl said after his playoff-bound Nuggets lost to Seattle 109-98 on Wednesday night.
Seattle’s Ray Allen broke the NBA record for 3-pointers in a season, finishing with 269, to complete the SuperSonics’ disappointing season.
Karl watched his Northwest Division champions lose their fourth straight game to conclude the regular season, but didn’t seem concerned about the outcome before the game. He rested starters Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby as well as Kenyon Martin, who has left knee tendinitis.
Eduardo Najera played in the first half for the Nuggets, but as a precaution taken by Karl, put on his street clothes and watched the game from the bench in the second half. He has been bothered by a right foot injury.
“Overrated,” Karl said when asked about momentum going into the playoffs. “Teams that have it, brag about it. Teams that don’t have it, don’t.”
After the game, Karl repeated himself.
“We have an opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs,” he said. “I think my team is ready. I think I’ve got some guys who want to win a playoff series.”
Allen, a six-time All-Star shooting guard, erased Dennis Scott’s 3-point mark of 267 set in the 1995-96 season for Orlando with his sixth made shot from behind the arc, giving him 268 for the season, with 6:30 left in the second quarter.
He tied the mark with five 3-pointers in the first period, when the Sonics pulled away for a 35-20 lead.
Allen led the Sonics with 27 points, including his seventh 3-pointer in the third quarter that put Seattle ahead 75-62 with 4:36 left.
The fans chanted for him to come back into the game and coach Bob Hill accommodated them by reinserting a smiling Allen into the lineup with 4:20 left. Then they cheered him when he was taken out with 38 seconds on the clock.
“When fans chant like that, it’s the biggest compliment,” said Allen, who said he wasn’t prepared to go back into the game.
After Allen broke Scott’s record, the officials stopped the game as the Key Arena crowd cheered wildly for the popular Allen, who was the team’s only All-Star in its lackluster 35-47 season. Referee Jack Nies presented Allen with the ball he used to set the record.
Denver got within 97-93 on a 3-pointer by Johnson with 2:21 to go.
Johnson led Denver with 22 points, tying his season high. Rookie Linas Kleiza had a career-high 17 points.
Karl was proud of the effort his team gave him. Evans, who was traded by Seattle to Denver on Feb. 23, grabbed 15 rebounds, but had seven of his team’s season-high 25 turnovers.
“That was fine,” Karl said. “My team was playing hard. If we didn’t turn the ball over like we did, we would have been in that game all the way.”
The Nuggets (44-38) will open their best-of-seven playoff series against the Clippers on Saturday in Los Angeles. Denver lost three of four games to the Clippers this season.
Camby feels the Nuggets will play well in the playoffs. He said the team is being vastly underrated.
“I love our chances,” he said. “I think with the team we have assembled, we could win it all. I feel we have a team that can get the job done.”
Seattle’s poor season came after the Sonics won 52 games and the Northwest Division title last season, reaching the Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs. The Sonics’ 58 owners are unhappy with their lease agreement with the city-owned Key Arena and have complained about not receiving $220 million in improvements to their arena. The lease runs through 2010.
Allen didn’t want to be drawn into the political battle being waged by team ownership.
“I’m more excited for next year,” he said of the 2006-2007 Sonics.
The Nuggets didn’t fly back to Denver after the game. Instead, Karl kept his team in Seattle, where it will practice Thursday and Friday before flying to Los Angeles on Friday for the Clippers’ series. Karl explained he didn’t want to arrive back in Denver about 3 a.m. on Thursday after Wednesday night’s game. … The Sonics and Nuggets split their season series 2-2. … University of Washington’s Brandon Roy, the Pac-10 Player of the Year as a senior, watched the game from a seat behind the Nuggets’ bench. … Allen ended the season averaging 25.1 points, the highest average by a Sonics player since Dale Ellis scored 27.5 points per game in 1988-89.